• Japanese Brilliance

    7 mar 2011, 16:35

    It occurred to me today as I was listening to the "thrash opera" awesomeness of 夢中夢 that there is an odd preponderance of Japanese music in my library and that it is rare that a week goes by that I do not listen to something out of Japan.

    Besides 夢中夢 (or Mutyumu)...

    ...there is the mind-boggling noise rock of Boredoms:

    Then we have psychedelic jazz rock collective ROVO:

    And the all-girl mayhem that is OOIOO, who are just about as far away as it is possible to be from that which first springs to mind when one hears the phrase "Japanese girl band".

    Also lurking in my library are the (to me at least) somewhat mysterious Nav Katze. Are they eclectic genre-spanning oriental electronic genii or bubblegum pop-merchants whose music has been remixed by an array of well known IDM artists as part of some of some kind of in-joke? I cannot find a satisfactory answer.

    And of course I must not forget the various incarnations of Acid Mothers Temple (arrived at by way of Hawkwind and Gong), plus KASHIWA Daisuke and LSD March.
  • The Ultimate Hawkwind Journal

    14 aug 2007, 15:58

    Hawkwind Studio Recordings:

    Group 1, the definitive recordings

    In Search of Space

    Doremi Fasol Latido

    Warrior on the Edge of Time

    Quark, Strangeness and Charm

    Group 2, stone cold masterpieces

    Hall of the Mountain Grill


    The Chronicle of the Black Sword

    Group 3

    Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music
    25 Years On (as the Hawklords)
    Electric Teepee
    Alien 4
    In Your Area
    Take Me to Your Leader

    Group 4

    Sonic Attack
    Choose Your Masques

    Space Bandits

    Group 5

    Church of Hawkwind
    The Xenon Codex
    It Is the Business of the Future to Be Dangerous

    Distant Horizons

    The Five Essential Live Recordings:

    1. Space Ritual, 1973

    2. Live Chronicles, 1986
    3. The Business Trip, 1994
    4. Atomhenge, 1976
    5. The 1999 Party, 1974

    The 10 most influential members of Hawkwind over the course of the band's history, taking into account factors such as songwriting, input to the image and direction of the band, and longevity; weighting for involvement in Hawkwind's definitive recordings:

    1. Dave Brock

    2. Nik Turner
    3. Robert Calvert
    4. Lemmy Kilmister

    5. Alan Davey
    6. Simon House
    7. Dik Mik
    8. Huw Lloyd-Langton
    9. Richard Chadwick
    10. Simon King

    The best track from each Hawkwind studio recording:

    Hawkwind (1970) - Hurry on Sundown
    In Search of Space (1971) - Master of the Universe
    Doremi Fasol Latido (1972) - Down Through the Night
    Hall of the Mountain Grill (1974) - D-Rider
    Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975) - The Golden Void
    Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music (1976) - Kadu Flyer
    Quark, Strangeness and Charm (1977) - Hassan I Sahba
    25 Years On (1978) - Freefall
    PXR5 (1979) - High Rise
    Levitation (1980) - Levitation
    Sonic Attack (1981) - Rocky Paths
    Church of Hawkwind (1982) - Damage of Life
    Choose Your Masques (1982) - Waiting for Tomorrow
    The Chronicle of the Black Sword (1985) - Elric the Enchanter
    The Xenon Codex (1988) - Sword of the East
    Space Bandits (1990) - Out of the Shadows
    Electric Teepee (1992) - LSD
    It is the Business of the Future to be Dangerous (1993)- The Camera That Could Lie
    Alien 4 (1995) - Journey
    Distant Horizons (1997) - Love in Space
    In Your Area (1999) - Hippy
    Take Me to Your Leader (2005) - Out Here We Are

    The five heaviest Hawkwind tracks, for metalheads:

    Born to Go
    Lord of Light
    Time We Left This World Today
    You Shouldn't Do That

    Five Strange Hawkwind Track Names:

    The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)
    City of Lagoons
    The Aubergine that Ate Rangoon
    Quark, Strangeness and Charm
    (Only) the Dead Dreams of the Cold War Kid
  • First Song...

    13 aug 2007, 19:35

    In which, following a survey style doing the rounds of the journals, I take my top 10 artists and detail: first song heard, song that caused me to fall in love with them, current favourite track.

    1. Hawkwind
    First song: Hurry On Sundown
    Fell in love with: Master of the Universe
    Current favourite: Down Through the Night

    2. Boards of Canada
    First song: Rue the Whirl
    Fell in love with: Sixtyten
    Current favourite: Everything You Do is a Balloon

    3. Pixies
    First song: Debaser
    Fell in love with: Debaser
    Current favourite: Something Against You

    4. Jethro Tull
    First song: Living in the Past
    Fell in love with: Living in the Past
    Current favourite: We Used to Know

    5. Autechre
    First song: Sublimit
    Fell in love with: Nil
    Current favourite: Clipper

    6. Scanners
    First song: Joy
    Fell in love with: In My Dreams
    Current favourite: Violence is Golden

    7. Pavement
    First song: Loretta's Scars
    Fell in love with: Gold Soundz
    Current favourite: Elevate Me Later

    8. Rage Against the Machine
    First song: Bullet in the Head
    Fell in love with: Killing in the Name
    Current favourite: Guerrilla Radio

    9. The Long Winters
    First song: Cinnamon
    Fell in love with: Cinnamon
    Current favourite: Blue Diamonds

    10. The Breeders
    First song: Cannonball
    Fell in love with: Cannonball
    Current favourite: Hellbound
  • Scanners at the Zebrano Bar

    6 aug 2007, 13:48

    Sun 5 Aug – Scanners

    A great set from Scanners underground at the Zebrano Bar, just off Carnaby Street. There's no actual stage in the bar so the band were set up with the audience on the same level practically touching the instruments.

    Tracks, from memory, were Joy, Changing Times, Lowlife, In My Dreams, Bombs, Air 164, Evil Twin, Raw, plus an infectious new track the name of which I do not yet know which featured about half way through the set.

    Highlights from the gig was a great arrangement of Evil Twin, superior to the studio version in my view, plus the closing performance of Raw, with a gloriously crazed Amina Bates staggering into the middle of the audience while continuing to play.

    Sarah Daly also mentioned during the gig that the band would be introducing some more new material into their set at their next gig. Is a new album coming in the near future?
  • Underrepresented

    20 jul 2007, 08:56

    Artists who I have listened to a lot but who are underrepresented on my my overall charts due to the fact that I joined after their peak listening period:

    Orbital: I think I own almost every Orbital release, all their albums and most of their singles and ep's, and I think if my whole lifetime listening chart were compiled Orbital would be second only to Hawkwind. For some reason, however, I have not listened to them much over the last year to 18 months.

    Led Zeppelin: For a long time I really listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin. However, I have most of their releases on vinyl. Plus I have really cooled on them over the last five years or so.

    Black Sabbath: I own all the Ozzy era albums, although none after his departure. All but one are on vinyl. While I haven't cooled on them as much as Led Zeppelin, they certainly don't figure in my musical tastes anywhere near as much as when I was an 18-year-old metalhead.

    Badly Drawn Boy: Gone off him a lot. I am still a great admirer of his first record but I think I just listened to it too much after release and. And he has never released anything else as good.

    Rage Against the Machine: I've been listening to them a lot again recently, so their current position is a bit more representative than it was a month or two ago. If my lifetime chart was compiled, they would be top five.

    The Chemical Brothers: I listened to them a hell of a lot after the release of Surrender. I hardly ever listen to them now.
  • Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Nirvana and Pavement

    30 jun 2007, 16:22

    The careers of Sonic Youth, the Pixies, Nirvana and Pavement span the most interesting and influential years of American alternative rock, from the late 1980s through to the end of the 1990s.
    Each band is acclaimed critically, while Nirvana's mainstream success and record sales are off the chart compared to Sonic Youth, the Pixies and Pavement.
    However, charting the relative success of the four groups in America and the United Kingdom reveals some intriguing facts.
    The Pixies, regarded generally as one of the most influential of all rock bands, never sold a lot of records in their home country. However, they were much more successful in Europe, and in the UK particularly. Doolittle, the Pixies' second album, released in 1989, broke the top 10 in Britain, reaching number eight, while barely breaking into the top 100 in the US, only reaching number 98. Bossanova achieved the number three spot in the UK, number 70 in the US, while the Pixies' final album, Trompe le Monde, reached number 7 in the UK but only number 92 in the States.
    Every Sonic Youth record has achieved considerably more success in the United Kingdom than in the USA. Goo, released in 1990, reached number 32 in Britain but only 96 in the USA. The most spectacular example is the 1992 release Dirty, which ascended to number 6 in the UK while only reaching 83 in America. Only Washing Machine, released in 1995, performed similarly in the two countries, reaching 58 in the US and 39 in the UK.
    Pavement's debut, Slanted and Enchanted, failed to chart in the US but across the pond achieved some moderate success by breaking into the charts and reaching number 72. With their second album, Pavement, in many ways the epitome of indie rock, really took off in the UK. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain failed to break the US top 100 but reached number 15 in the UK, a staggering performance for a group on a small label with little if any promotion. We see similar relative performances with Wowee Zowee, Brighten the Corners and Pavement's final record, Terror Twilight. All three charted impressively in the UK.
    The relative performance of Nirvana in the United States and the United Kingdom is a little more difficult to interpret due to their sudden and explosive commercial success and their significant cultural resonance. However, there are some revealing facts.
    Nirvana hit the mainstream music scene like a lightning bolt from a clear blue sky with Nevermind in 1991. However, while the album sold in huge numbers all around the world (in excess of 26 million so far) it actually failed to reach the number one spot in the UK, peaking at a rather anomalous number seven. In the US the album steamrollered the charts, achieving the top spot. Nevermind reached number two or three across most of Europe.
    On the back of this success, and with Kurt Cobain achieving icon status (even before his death) the follow-up In Utero also shifted millions of units across the world. In between Nevermind and In Utero, Nirvana's forgotten first album, Bleach, rode the Nevermind wave and sold fairly well in 1992, three years after its initial release.
    Now interestingly, whereas the admittedly extremely successful, and significantly more commercial, Nevermind only reached number seven in Britain, the much more abrasive and challenging In Utero went to number one. Bleach achieved measurable success in Europe and reached number 33 in the UK, whereas in the US, even with Nirvana the 900 pound gorilla in the musical jungle, Bleach barely made the top 100.
    Note that the performance of Bleach in 1992 mirrors that of records by Sonic Youth, the Pixies and Pavement, before and after the Nirvana phenomenon. There is also a similar element with In Utero, although, as I said, Nirvana's incredible penetration of popular culture via the success of Nevermind makes this difficult to interpret with any accuracy.
    What conclusions can we draw from all this? For me, this supports my previously-held intuition that listeners in the United Kingdom were probably more attuned to the 1990s US alternative rock phenomenon than listeners in the US, where it was actually happening. It also suggests that listeners in the UK were more attuned to the more alternative sound and the artists and releases which would, at least to the present day, gain and retain canonical long-term respect and come to be regarded as among the most influential rock music of the era.
    Americans created the greatest, most original and influential rock music of the era. And the Brits knew it.
  • Reflections on the Pixies

    28 jun 2007, 10:00

    Pixies Records in Order of Supremacy:

    1.Surfer Rosa
    3.Trompe le Monde
    4.Come On Pilgrim

    Favourite tracks by the Pixies:

    1.Where Is my Mind?
    3.Something Against You
    5.Broken Face
    6.Gouge Away
    7.Break My Body
    9.Bone Machine
    10.River Euphrates
  • Killer Tracks from a Sonic Assassin

    23 feb 2007, 16:40

    Robert Calvert, singer, poet, lyricist, manic depressive and on-off front man of Hawkwind, was a criminally ignored lyrical genius and one of the UK's most underrated creative artists.
    Robert was born in 1945 in Pretoria, South Africa. His family moved to Kent in England in 1947. He grew up wanting to be a fighter pilot but ended up a writer, an enthusiastic participant in the 1960s London psychedelia subculture.
    After meeting Hawkwind co-founder Dave Brock in 1970, Robert joined the underground icons as resident poet, reading his work amid strobes and light cascades on stage.
    Seeking a break from touring, Robert left Hawkwind in 1973 and recorded two solo albums, Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters (featuring Brian Eno and Arthur Brown) and Lucky Leif And The Longships (produced by Eno). In 1975 he rejoined Hawkwind as their frontman and main lyricist, staying on for three years before leaving for the second time in 1978. Through the end of the 70s and and into the 80s up to his death in 1988 he produced numerous poetic and musical works, as well as short stories and novels.
    Robert is believed to have been bi-polar and spent much of his adult life in states of mania, depression or recovering in mental institutions.
    Despite, or perhaps because of, this, he left an amazing legacy, a canon of amazingly imaginative and original work, touching on themes rarely even considered by other songwriters.

    Robert Calvert died of a heart attack in August 1988 while readying himself for a new tour and about to work once again with Hawkwind.

    Here are some killer tracks from this astounding writer:

    High Rise from PXR5 1978

    A melancholy critique of high rise living, perhaps inspired by the 1975 JG Ballard novel of the same name.

    Of human blood shape
    Tentacles of human gore
    Spread out on the pavement from the 99th floor
    Well somebody said that he jumped
    But we know he was pushed
    He was just like you might have been
    On the 99th floor of a suicide machine."

    Quark, Strangeness and Charm from Quark, Strangeness and Charm 1977

    Only Robert Calvert could write a song about love, sex, quantum mechanics and astrophysics.

    "Copernicus had those Renaissance ladies
    Crazy about his telescope
    And Galileo had a name that made his
    Reputation higher than his hopes
    Did none of those astronomers discover
    While they were staring out into the dark
    That what a lady looks for in her lover
    Is Charm, Strangeness and Quark."

    Hassan I Sahba from Quark, Strangeness and Charm 1977

    Sometimes called Assassins of Allah, a tale of drug-fuelled suicidal assassins of the 11th century. A live Hawkwind favourite for over two decades. However, given the modern resonance of the lyrics I dread to think what the tabloids would make of this one.

    "Death unto all infidels in oil
    Guide us o thou genie of the smoke
    Lead us to a thousand and one nights
    In the perfumed garden of delights."

    Spirit of the Age from Quark, Strangeness and Charm 1977

    Poetry from a clone travelling through deep space.

    "I am a clone, I am not alone
    Every fibre of my flesh and bone is identical to the others
    Everything I say is in the same tone
    as my test tube brother's voice
    There is no choice between us,
    If you had ever seen us,
    You'd rejoice in your uniqueness
    and consider every weakness something special of your own. Being a clone, I have no flaws to identify
    Even this doggerel that pours from my pen,
    has just been written by another twenty telepathic men,
    word for word, it says:
    "Oh, for the wings of any bird, other than a battery hen"

    Uncle Sam's On Mars from PXR5 1978

    Years before mainstream culture woke up to the coming environmental problems, Robert penned this prescient warning, intertwined with a satire on US government imperialism.

    "Shoals of dead fish float on the lakes,
    But Uncle Sam's on Mars
    And science is making the same mistakes,
    But Uncle Sam's on Mars
    No one down here knows how to work the brakes,
    but Uncle Sam's on Mars
    Uncle Sam's on Mars,
    Uncle Sam's on Mars,
    Uncle Sam's on Mars,
    He's on Mars...

    He's digging for dreams in the red sand
    He's got his bucket and spade in his left hand
    He's digging for dreams
    He's looking for life
    What's he doing out there?
    He's looking for life
    Looking for life
    There may be life out there...

    I hope you brought your credit card with you,
    and I hope you know how to drive on these long, lonely freeways and intersections we've got up here. We've got two cars in the garage, two cars in the garage, and
    drum-majorettes in white ankle socks and baton twirling on Sundays.
    We've got stripes and the stars,
    And Uncle Sam's on,
    Uncle Sam's on,
    Uncle Sam's on Mars...."

    Ejection from Captain Lockheed And The Starfighters 1974

    Recalling Robert's boyhood fantasy of being a fighter pilot, this has been often covered by Hawkwind.

    "The radar screen's projection
    Tells me I'm too late
    To make a course correction
    I'm about to meet my fate
    No time for reflection
    I'd better make it straight
    Into Ejection
    Bust through the sky
    The air rushing by
    It's a case of goodbye
    I'm too fast to die

    When a ship meets with destruction
    The Captain stays to drown
    But no tin contraption
    Is going to drag me down
    My reference intersection
    Tells me that I'm bound
    For Ejection
    Eight times my weight
    Ejection I've got to escape
    Only one move to make
    Abandon this crate

    Over the Top, live recording only from 1977, featured on the Hawkwind compilation Mighty Hawkwind Classics released in 1992

    An incredible track, which as far as I am aware is mostly a trippy improvisation by Robert, never performed again but thankfully captured on a live recording. It opens with some on-stage chat, moves into some well-known Hawkwind sci-fi poetry, then a lengthy anti-war diatribe. Absolutely mesmerising stuff.

    "Fountains, fountains,
    All going up in fountains, fountains.
    All a fable for fountains now
    And just a minute now
    When you look into my eyes,
    You're looking at your own reflection
    And all you see is your disguise
    You wear for your own protection
    So don't go telling me that you know
    just when to stop,
    When to stop.
    You know you go over the top

    alright here it goes..

    In 1916, They dug the trenches
    We don't need them;
    We have our own defences
    We don't need no officers to blow no whistle
    and scream "Come on you guys wake up out of your dream and follow me 'Cos I'm going,
    Over the top
    Over the top
    Follow me over the top
    Here goes now,
    Your Country needs you."
    (Hey Kitchener, don't you know that moustaches went out with the Beatles?)
    Give me white feather!
    Give me white feather!
    Give me white feather!
    Hung upon the wire
    Give me white feather!
    Give me white feather!
    Give me white feather!
    Hung upon the wire
    Hung upon the wire
    Strung on barbed wire
    Huh, strung on barbed wire

    Goodbye genocide....."

    Robert Calvert, born March 9 1945 in Pretoria, South Africa, died August 14 1988 in Ramsgate, England
  • 10 Favourite Records

    31 jan 2007, 09:36

    The last couple of years may have been the most fruitful in my life as far as discovering new music is concerned. Some of it has been of my own discovery, much recommended, with contributing recently.
    On a whim, and also partly to clarify things in my own mind, I've decided to record my 10 favourite records. The rules I have set are as follows: 10 favourite records plus one or more groups of 10 further records which could, depending on mood, gradually shifting tastes or other factors, swap in; only one record by any particular artist or band in each group of 10; no compilations or 'best of' albums; no live albums.

    In no particular order:

    Music Has the Right to Children
    Warp Records 1998

    A magnum opus from the Scottish IDM maestroes, Boards of Canada, Music Has the Right to Children is nothing short of mesmerising. Instantly accessible, entertaining, yet rewards careful listening. High Point: Happy Cycling.

    Surfer Rosa
    4AD 1988

    Rightly considered one of the greatest, most influential rock albums, this stone cold masterwork from the Pixies feels like it has not aged a day. Grabs you by the throat and just doesn't let go. Ever. Frank Black's manic yowling and screeching, perfectly offset by Kim Deal's feathery backing vocals, and underrated contributions by Joey Santiago (just listen to Something Against You) and Dave Lovering, help make this a colossal record. High Point: Where is my Mind?

    In Search of Space
    United Artists One Way 1971

    Hawkwind have been my favourite band since I was a schoolboy, when I may well have been the only person in the entire school who knew who they were, and I have seen them live many times. Choosing from their back catalogue is very difficult as there are so many records there which I could not live without. This, the band's second album marked the launch of their definitive space rock era. High Point: Master of the Universe.

    last splash
    Elektra Records 1993

    It was only recently that it dawned on me that I never stopped coming back to this record from The Breeders. I bought it on release in '93 and for more than 10 years I have repeatedly put it away for a while then been overwhelmed by the urge to listen to it again, having to rummage through piles of records to locate it. And I would happily marry Kim Deal. Or Tanya Donelly. In fact both of them. And I would have their children if I was biologically capable of it. High Point: Cannonball.

    Stand Up
    Island Records 1969

    Despite having five platinum and 11 gold records and being one of the biggest bands of the early to mid 70s, Jethro Tull do not seem to have the mainstream resonance of contemporaries such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. With Mick Abrahams out and Martin Barre in on guitar, Ian Anderson asserted full creative control of the band for this, Tull’s second album, and moved them firmly away from the blues sound which characterised their debut release. The result is a thing of pure musical beauty. High Point: We Used to Know.

    Here are Jethro Tull performing We Used to Know and For a Thousand Mothers at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. For me this is the very essence of live music. I wish I could have been there to see this.

    Tri Repetae
    Warp Records 1995

    I am not sure a record has ever knocked me sideways like this one did when I first heard it. Autechre seem to have an understanding of dark, esoteric secrets of electronica beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. Listen through headphones for full effect: like being washed away by a tidal wave in slow motion. High Point: Clipper.

    Blueberry Boat
    Rough Trade 2004

    Not so much a record as a lyrical cascade. Every time I listen to this record by The Fiery Furnaces it seems I hear something new which makes me laugh out loud. Musically it is excellent yet it is the stunning inventiveness of the lyrics which catapult it into the very highest category. High Point: My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found.

    Hour of Bewilderbeast
    Twisted Nerve Records 2000

    Sadly Badly Drawn Boy, or Damon Gough, appears to have gone from endlessly inventive indie messiah to fading pop/rock journeyman. However, his recent recordings do not retroactively detract from this masterpiece. Of all the records I have ever bought I probably listened to this more than any other during the first two or three years after purchase. A long record yet devoid of filler material. Maybe Gough poured too much of his mojo into this one. High Point: Fall In a River.

    Another great track from that record, Once Around the Block:

    The Golden Morning Breaks
    The Leaf Label 2005

    A thing of astonishing beauty and originality, The Golden Morning Breaks is not one I listen to often but one I enjoy as much as any. Listening to Colleen like this is like taking a long hit from a giant bong painted with flowers then lying back and being showered with rose petals. High Point: Bubbles Which on the Water Swim.

    AI 2004

    Neurofibro is just such an interesting record, one which seems to have something new to offer on every listening. It has such a crystal clear sound, layers of complexity and lovely pacing and structure. A fine wine of a record from Claro Intelecto. High Point: You Not Me.